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Ubuntu-11.04 on Dell T-105 with RAID: video and grub problems

by Chris Shenton last modified Nov 22, 2012 09:20 AM
At install time, the video blanked. After RAID setup, Grub didn't install.

I've got an older Dell T105 with AMD64 Opteron that I installed 2 2TB drives into. It's running BIOS 1.0.1.

Installing Ubuntu-11.04-Server from CD

Blank Screen Of Death

Trying to install from CD Ubuntu-11.04 Server, Desktop, i386 or amd64 all result in an apparent hang using English or Spanish, just at the point when it is going to run through the installer. In another attempt we were able to install 10.04 from CD then went through a 2-step upgrade. Something's changed in the installer between 10.04 and 11.04.

After pounding on keys at the blank 11.04 screen it seemed the installer was running but video was blank.

Reboot from CD and before it starts the boot loader, hold the SHIFT key. At the prompt turn off visual problems:

boot: install vga=normal

Then follow the text install menus.

Create RAID

Follow the nontrivial instructions for a RAID1 with a 20GB swap on the first partition and / on the second partition taking up the rest of the drive.

Install OS

Install the OS as usual.

Installation of Grub failed

When it came time to install grub, it failed: the command it ran:

grub-install /dev/sda

complained it could not but then spewed something about being required for RAID.

After it blindly went to reboot from disk, it hung with a cursor prompt because there was no Grub.

Fix Partitions and Install GRUB

Reboot from Installation CD and enter rescue mode, and tell it to give you a shell on the /dev/md1 partition. If you try and do a "grub-install" it will complain at you, saying it's a bad idea.

Tweak the disks so you can then install grub on them:

# parted sda
toggle 1 boot_grub

# parted sdb
toggle 1 boot_grub

# grub-install sda
# grub-install sdb

Now you should have grub on the raw disks.

Boot in Grub

Now when I reboot I get a "grub>" prompt that goes nowwhere. This doc helped:

Manually boot:

set root=(md/1)
linux /vmlinuz root=/dev/md1 ro
initrd /initrd.img

Fix Grub

When booted and logged in:

sudo updage-grub
sudo grub-install /dev/sda
sudo grub-install /dev/sdb

This creates a /boot/grub/grub.cfg file that allows the OS to boot directly next time.

Reboot and Enjoy

Finally I get a login prompt I can use.

Update 2012-11-22

Ubuntu Server 12.04 disappears the display when it goes to Grub so I can't see what's going on; without grub menu, I can't append a vga=771 type of mode.

You may be able to get it to default to a usable mode by unplugging the VGA cable as you boot it up, before grub tries to be clever and detect modes. Then plug in the cable and try to edit.

Once you get it to boot (cough) e.g., with the cable trick or ssh login, edit /etc/default/grub:


then run "update-grub" and reboot.

I've not been able yet to get it to show a grub menu where I can add boot options right there despite fiddling:


and there are tickets saying that (some of) these are ignored anyway; what a mess.

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